Jack's Return Home- Get Carter, Ted Lewis

Review Written By
Gordon Duncan

In 1971 the film Get Carter starring Michael Caine was released and it has since become arguably one of the greatest gangster films of all time. The film was so successful after it's release that the book upon which it was based, Jack's Return Home, was renamed after the film. For this review I'm using the original title.

"The rain rained. It hadn't stopped since Euston. Inside the train it was close, the kind of closeness that makes your fingernails dirty even when all you're doing is sitting there looking out of the blurring windows. Watching the dirty backs of houses scudding along under the half-light clouds. Just sitting and looking and not even fidgeting."

With those opening words to Jack's Return Home Ted Lewis changed British crime writing forever and the modern British crime novel was born. Reading it almost 50 years after it was published is an equally fascinating and disturbing experience. Fans of the film, of which I'm one, will recognise much of the dialogue because large parts of it were used in the film. Much of the narrative also doesn't change until the last third of the book with notable exception being the book's location of Scunthorpe as opposed to Newcastle Upon Tyne for the film. The violence is also there but more sharply focused because the humour, dark and bleak as it was, is missing. 

As I mentioned before Jack's Return Home is also a disturbing read, I say this because the violence towards women, verbal, physical and thought, is unrelenting throughout the novel. In many respects reading the book is harsher because of the first person narration adding another layer of male violence towards women. It has also made me rethink my views towards the film and although I still intend to watch it again I expect it be a deeply uncomfortable viewing.

In conclusion, for anyone who's either a fan of Get Carter or wants to read the book because of its historical importance to crime fiction I recommend reading it, just don't expect Jack's Return Home to be an enjoyable experience. 

Get Carter
Year of Publication
Book Number (in series)

It’s a rainy night in the mill town of Scunthorpe when a London fixer named Jack Carter steps off a northbound train. He’s left the neon lights and mod lifestyle of Soho behind to come north to his hometown for a funeral—his brother Frank’s. Frank was very drunk when he drove his car off a cliff and that doesn’t sit well with Jack. Mild-mannered Frank never touched the stuff.

Jack and Frank didn’t exactly like one another. They hadn’t spoken in years and Jack is far from the sentimental type. So it takes more than a few people by surprise when Jack starts plying his trade in order to get to the bottom of his brother’s death. Then again, Frank’s last name was Carter, and that’s Jack’s name too. Sometimes that’s enough.

Set in the late 1960s amidst the smokestacks and hardcases of the industrial north of England, Get Carter redefined British crime fiction and cinema alike. Along with the other two novels in the Jack Carter Trilogy, it is one of the most important crime novels of all time.

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